Why this new movement doesn’t need ‘activists’

Opinion, Police, Politics, Revolutionary Perspectives

2014 was a—year of resistance—brought on through increased tragedy. From ubiquitous violence, from Palestine to Ferguson, to lack of concern for human needs, the “Fight for $15” to the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, 2014 has been difficult. Yet, hope was not all lost. A new ‘protest movement’ was born, people filled the streets, simultaneously, and a moment and movement arose.

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2014, especially in the wake of Israeli siege of Gaza and rampant police violence, a new generation of “activists”—were born.

Soles, and souls, hit the streets, commutes were disrupted, Zizek/Occupy style ‘mic-checks’ reemerged, incendiary signs, chants and demands became normal all in part due—a new wave of “activists”— inculcated our psyche (and newsfeed); whether we like it or not, forced the U.S to collectively think about what resistance actually looks like.

These collection of moments, paving the way for a movement, is powerful and necessary. However, it is not infallible, in actuality, it is far from it especially because the ‘over’-proliferation of—“activists’—is doing more harm to the movement, than good.

Regardless of how powerful 300,000 people marching through New York City was, characteristically, it has just become another trendy highlight—in the fetishization of direct action.  Moreover, I am no longer interested in hearing about, seeing or talking about actions or especially “activists”—as I am convinced that their relevancy, both semantically and physically, have become obsolete.

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To be clear, I am not saying we don’t need direct actions, instead, I am calling for an end to ‘activists’, in their current incarnation. Instead, developing ‘activists’ into the organizers, the movement so badly needs.

“Activists” are defined with 4 blatant characteristics: 1.) people committed to action, activity and ‘showing up’, as opposed to, those invested in building movements, 2.) people attracted to trendy struggles, i.e. Ferguson solidarity, Gaza, etc, 3.) those whose impetus for getting ‘active’ is based on emotional appeal (pathos), not consciousness of systematic injustice and 4.) In many cases, a weak, “liberal” ideology.

Instead, I think there is another way, we need “organizers”, devoted to the development of future organizers, intrinsically what organizers already do; but now it is time to get serious about leadership development.

I define, “organizers”, as displaying 4 parallel, antithetical characteristics: 1.) they see actions, such as rallies and protests, as tactics in a broader struggle for visibility and their role is planning, building and organizing the actions for activists to join, 2.) committed to lasting, systemic altering, struggles, not just the most “hopping”, 3.) commitment to organizing stems from an ethical or logical conclusion of an invalid system and 4.) an ideology, that grapples with liberation—not just progress.

To further explain, let’s take the tragedies of Mike Brown and Eric Garner—and the new ‘protest movement’, alongside it.

Rioting erupts in Ferguson, Missouri after police involved shooting of an unarmed teen

Police violence on communities of color is nothing new, but this level of activity, in response, has been missing in the 21st century. In mid-August, shortly after Mike Brown’s murder, protests erupted in Ferguson, then subsequently, across the country. For the next few weeks the streets were hot, shining a damning light on police brutality. Causing tensions, between the police and communities of color, rising to an all-time high, again. The past few months were ripe with great actions, collective power and thousands, upon thousands, in the streets, but what happened to these ‘activists’? They dropped off because, an inherent flaw of “activism”, they did not have a strong theoretical and logical base for becoming active, other than for activity itself.

With rising tensions, the birth of a new movement and no substantive reform, activists have been running wild—but these ‘foot soldiers’ have run their course, now it is time where we take this tragedy and develop organizers, and organizations, to struggle intensely.

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Furthermore, today’s “activism” is harmful and cyclical (without getting too theoretical). Meaning, for example, a tragedy occurs, the masses are indignant, a ‘protest movement’ grows—and then it either loses momentum, it is suppressed or the activists accept a certain concession—then pattern starts all over again. Organizers see the error in this cycle; therefore, organizers will always prioritize winning campaigns that will change the nature of the status quo and developing leaders so that movements, won’t die out or be conceded, instead—the struggle for a reimagined world—will continue until the day a new world is born.

There is hope, I know there is. Nothing about our current stage is irrelevant; except, activists and those who preach the gospel of action over organization. We have the power to change that. People actually are building powerful organizations, but they are still the minority.

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It is not an easy path, no such thing “short term” win, it is going to take years of painful, grueling, on the ground work but I know that we are more than capable. It will take patience from the older organizers, to teach the newer ones, yet we have the greatest chance at another world because unlike many other generations, or movements, we are guided by hope not despair—and that makes a worldly difference.

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A counterrevolutionary story for a revolutionary life: Leila Khaled

Opinion, Revolutionary Perspectives, THEIRstory

 

A ‘capitulation of power’, ‘weak’, ‘towards…revolution’ and ‘end the occupation’ “NOW!” Wholly encompasses the self-proclaimed “dialectic materialist”, and her worldview (more on that later), Leila Khaled.

Employing both brevity and breadth, Khaled, has become the icon for Palestinian liberation–and an unabashed Marxist. Claiming that “Palestine for me is Paradise. Religions talk about paradise. For me, Palestine is paradise. It deserves our sacrifices” displaying upfront, her words and actions as a visceral embodiment of the same “dialectics” she espouses. Moreover, going back to her words in the beginning, she describes the entirety of negotiations between Israel and Palestine as “weak” and that Palestine is negotiating from a position of powerlessness instead–calling for revolution to end the occupation, as a showing of “dialectics”, because of her contradictory positions, in that, most would see negotiations as progress but not Khaled. Generally her positions, and her being, are seen as revolutionary but dangerous, groundbreaking but problematic, as a symbol of liberation but also as a “terrorist” but all too characteristic of herself–Khaled is solely committed to Palestinian emancipation, a true sign of a revolutionary.

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Born in Haifa, a large northern Israeli city, forcibly joining 6 million other Palestinians in a diaspora of biblical proportions, 4 years after her birth. Settling in Lebanon, ending up in Amman, Jordan today, her family joins the Arab National Movement, where in 1967 the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) is born. Khaled’s indignation, pre-1967, could not be contained, persuading a Marxist-Leninist group to train her in revolutionary warfare which will–end up as her ‘theory’ and ‘praxis’ for liberation.

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Still she was among thousands of refugees who held contempt for the settler-colonial regime, Israel. However in 1969, her name goes down in heroic infamy.

First, in 1969, she along with a comrade of hers hijacked a plane flying to Tel Aviv, forcing it to fly into Damascus, as tactic to free 2 prisoners held by Israel–TWA flight 840 was stolen for the two Israelis on-board as an exchange for the jailed Palestinians. Then again, in 1970, before the brutal crackdown on Palestinian fighters, known as “Black September”, Khaled hijacked another plane but this time it was flying out of EI AI (a well-guarded Israeli airport). Regarded, mildly, as a “success” it led to the freeing of many Palestinian prisoners in Europe but like before, Khaled, was captured by the authorities and her partner, Patrick Arguello, was killed by Israeli guards.

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These two events, marred in infamy, lead to the proliferation of the name: Leila Khaled, as the poster-child for resistance.

After 1970, her name no longer appeared daily on news reels, newspaper headlines but her legend had cemented, still apart of the PFLP she has become the voice for revolutionary warfare, socialist revolution and anti-imperialism, in the Middle East. A solid revolutionary by any standards.

Midst the perpetual demonization, Khaled, has posited various ‘controversial’ standpoints, including: her relegation of women’s oppression to the bottom of the symbolic ladder of oppression, as well as, not being an over-zealous advocate for Boycotts, Divestments and Sanctions (BDS) and, most well-known, for her adamant stance on armed struggle as necessary for liberation.

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“Political power grows out of the barrel of a gun.”

Mao Zedong (Nov. 1938, “Problems of War and Strategy”)

Revolutionaries see her either: as a mere nationalist provocateur of violence or a true Marxist (Maoist) revolutionary. The latter being most accurate, her life-long commitment to Palestinian liberation, even superseding its importance over other oppression(s) (i.e. the woman question, etc), risking her life on multiple occasions and her contempt with the process of negotiating for “peace” (an example of “combating liberalism”), are simple criterion for a great revolutionary.

Leila Khaled, consistently defamed, labeled a “terrorist”, as “violent” and oft overshadowed, is the among greatest embodiment of the Palestinian struggle. A sound “dialectic materialist”, opposed to Pan-Arabism, always advocating for a one-state solution–the creation (read: return) of a democratic Palestine for all Arabs–regardless of religious affiliation or familial lineage.

Her life, her image and, in essence, her being is one of bravery, tenacity and revolution, therefore solidarity with Leila Khaled is absolutely unquestionable.

Although, in 2014, Palestinians are still not free; the inspiration that Khaled’s words, action and history provide gives me incredible optimism that our fighters will be free–one day, soon.

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Further reading/Sources:

Interview with Leila Khaled, ‘BDS’ is effective but it doesn’t liberate land 

Leila Khaled: Hijacker (English subtitles)

Bio shows why Leila Khaled remains an icon of resistance

“Injustice every day”: An interview with Leila Khaled

‘For me, Palestine is paradise’: An interview with Leila Khaled

**Leon Trotsky: Why Marxists Oppose Individual Terrorism